The terrorist attack in Pakistan highlights regional instability

Road of Peshawar e1646581668116
Roads of Peshawar in Pakistan (Credits: Khalid Mir from Karachi, Pakistan, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Author: Giuliano Bifolchi

The recent terrorist attack in Peshawar underlined security problems in Pakistan linked to different terrorist groups that operate in the region, especially between the Afghan-Pakistani border, and stressed Islamabad and Kabul’s current inability to completely contrast the Islamic State’s threat.

On March 4th, 2022, a  powerful explosion rocked the Shiite mosque Asna-e-Ashri in Kocha Risaldar in Peshawar during the Friday prayers killing 30 people on the spot and injuring more than 100 people. Pakistani police reported that at least one suicide bomber tried to enter the mosque building opening fire against the security guards at the entrance. During the skirmish, the attacker managed to break into the mosque and set off an improvised explosive device (IDE). According to local sources, the death toll has risen to 62 victims, while the wounded has reached 194 people.

According to the U.S. newspaper New York Times, the Pakistani police said an Afghan man attacked the Shiite mosque in Peshawar last Friday. The attacker was an Afghan national whose family moved to Pakistan about ten years ago. Police officials said the militant was trained in Afghanistan. The attack was one of the deadliest in recent years in the northwestern city of Peshawar near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. Local police are still conducting investigations to understand the dynamics of the attack. According to Peshawar police chief Ejaz Khan, it appears to have been two terrorists who attacked the Shiite mosque.

The Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) claimed responsibility for the attack and said that a native of Afghanistan carried out the explosion. As the Islamic State news agency Amaq reported, a militant called Julaybib al-Kabuli stormed the mosque, shooting two Pakistani police officers and detonating his explosive belt. The statement claimed that the Islamic State Khorasan would continue targeting the Shiite community in Afghanistan and Pakistan despite the Governments’ efforts to protect it.

Why does it matter?

The terrorist attack highlighted that the Islamic State Khorasan is a threat in the AfPak region, especially for the Shiite Muslim community, considering that the Friday terrorist attack targeted the main mosque in a predominantly Shiite neighbourhood that is part of the centuries-old Qissa Khawani Bazaar, a former trading hub.

The Peshawar attack demonstrated that both the Taliban in Afghanistan and local security forces in Pakistan could not completely contrast terrorist groups in the region, especially the Islamic State Khorasan.

In addition, the attack in Peshawar stressed that terrorist groups might destabilise those Pakistani regions incorporated into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which Beijing promoted to support the Belt and Road Initiative and create a link between the Chinese market and Pakistan.

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